RV selected to pilot new AP African-American Studies course next year

RV is one of only 26 schools to be selected in the state

Carlo Ciliberti, Student Life Editor

RV has been selected the opportunity to pilot the new AP course, AP African American studies, in the 2023-2023 academic year.

RV is one of only 26 schools in New Jersey being offered this opportunity. Staff and administration have spent several months preparing for this course, as have students.

According to College Board, AP African American Studies is a new course that has been being in the process of developing for over ten years. The course aims to explore all contributions of African Americans to society, in a variety of different areas.

“It’s doing a sweeping learning of everything Africa, especially pre colonization,” said junior Mya Collins, who has already signed up to take the course. “It’s more centered to Africa and the effects of colonization, showing the effects within the country, rather than a Eurocentric focal point.  It’s the same history that we’ve been learning, but from a different perspective.”

Collins, like many students, is excited to have this opportunity.

“It means a lot to me,” Collins said. “It’s exciting because it’s something that I never thought would actually be a thing, at least while I’m in high school. I would have been crushed if it came to RV after I had already graduated, and I missed the opportunity.  It means a lot to me that people are working to correct the wrongs of the past, especially in areas of representation in an academic sense.”

History teacher Mrs. Cheryl Alspach, one of the two teachers instructing the pilot course, shares similar sentiments to that of her student.

“This is an amazing opportunity for RV students to learn about history that has been historically undervalued as a part of our culture, legacy and American story,” she said. “It’s also a passion of mine.  My master’s thesis was all about Black history in New Jersey, so I’ve got a big personal interest in it, and I’m excited about it.”

Although there is a great deal of excitement for the course, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding it.

“A lot of [the controvsersy] comes out of Florida, and people’s opposition to the teaching or critical race theory,” said Alspach. “It’s hard to separate African American Studies from things like intersectionality, which is based in and closely connected to critical race theory.”

All of those involved with the course do not see it as controversial.

“New Jersey state standards support everything in this curriculum,” said Ms. Alsapch.

Collins echoed the views of her teacher.

“I disagree with the controversy,” she said. “I find it nonsensical… People are quick to assume something about something when it’s learning more about history.”

Mrs. Tracy Matozzo, director of Curriculum and Instruction at RV provided a similar opinion.

“There were actually a few states in addition to Florida who felt that the material in the course contradicted standard, culturally understood truths,” she said. “The course challenges those truths.”

However, RV feels that the controversy has since died down, and the school does not fear any repercussions.

“Myself, Ms. Jean Marie Seal and Ms. Cheryl Alspach all participated in a webinar where they debunked all of the misinformation coming out of Florida,” said Mrs. Matozzo. “Everybody understood the development of the course, and how the course was developed with fidelity, so they were combating misinformation that was based on misinformation to begin with.”

 Amidst all of the controversy, College Board will continue to provide RV with resources to improve the course.

“AP is jumping on the schools to get feedback from us,” said Ms. Alspach. “Both me and Mr. Jenkins, the other instructor, as well as the students who take the course, are going to be in contact with AP works, and scholars who have worked alongside the curriculum.  We get to comment on what’s good, what’s bad, what needs to be changed, and what is appropriate for high school.”

While combating the controversy and providing feedback, RV’s history teachers look forward to beginning the course at the commencement of the school year, and will to instruct the course with passion and commitment.

“Ms. Alspach and Mr. Jenkins are very committed to this course, and making it available to all students,” said Mrs. Matozzo. “Representation matters, and this is a fabulous entry point for letting students of color be recognized in all aspects.”

Overall, the course is a great opportunity for students that are interested.

“Take it,” encouraged Collins of the course. “This is an incredible opportunity that isn’t going to happen every day.  We should all be exposing ourselves to new information and push ourselves to take an AP class.  This is a perfect lens to dip your toes into.”